Samsung ATIV Smart PC Review

Introduction and Design

Samsung covered all bases of Microsoft newest operating system by releasing one RT tablet, one Smart PC Atom-based slate, and a full-fledged Smart PC Pro Windows 8 tablet machine with a Core i5 processor. Tablets with the frugal Intel Atom processor are supposed to bring you the best of all worlds – a full Windows 8 operating system, but in a slim and light slate that will last as long as an ARM-based machine. These should be the main selling points of our Samsung ATIV Smart PC review unit, which on top of that ships with a keyboard dock included in the price.

Has Microsoft managed to make Win 8 run with enough decency on an Atom processor so you don't feel underpowered, and has Samsung managed to deliver on battery life and extra layers of functionality to make you give Atom slates serious consideration before iPads, Androids or other Win 8/RT tablets? Read on our review to find out...


If you are coming from most Android tablets or even aluminum iPads, the ATIV Smart PC will feel a tad heavy at 26oz (750g), given its all-plastic construction. However, considering that Samsung's tablet has a larger 11.6” screen, and runs full Win 8 that has backwards compatibility with all programs ever written for Windows – something that typically requires a cooling fan - the weight is actually quite decent. Tell that to your wrist, though, as prolonged holding of the polycarbonate ATIV Smart PC chassis brings fatigue much faster than with a typical ARM-based 10” slate, for instance, despite that there's plenty of side bezel for your thumbs to grip it tight without touching the display.

The 9.9mm thin polycarbonate housing resembles the material used in the making of the blue Galaxy S III, with brushed metal looks, but hollow plasticky sound when you knock on the back. The back is a looker with the faux brushed metal housing, the elevated Samsung logo and the metal rim around the 8MP camera with LED flash by its side, and its tapered sides help in holding the tablet more comfortably.

The power/lock, volume rocker and screen orientation keys are situated discreetly on the sides in the top left quadrant – flush enough to blend with the chassis, but still easy to feel, and with good tactile feedback. Moreover, we have a full suite of ports and slots – microSD, USB 2.0, SIM card, and even a microHDMI for TV-out, covered with fitting protective flaps that are easy to pry open.

The Windows key underneath the display is slightly recessed, preventing accidental presses, and with a clicky tactile feel as well. Below it at the bottom are the dock connector and the keyboard attachment mechanism openings, which make it very easy to snap the tablet in and out of the dock with the push of a button.

Keyboard dock

Samsung throws in two extra input methods with the ATIV Smart PC – the S Pen stylus we all know and love from its Note family of phones and tablets, tucked neatly in the silo at the lower right corner, as well as a keyboard dock with a hinge mechanism, that transforms the Windows 8 tablet into a full-fledged notebook.

The metal hinge mechanism seems sturdy and the tablet snaps into place with one quick motion. Pulling it out is a bit harder, though, as you have to push the release button with a significant force before the latch springs are released, but we wouldn't want that mechanism iffy anyway.

The sturdy metal hinge wraps around the back, making the assembly easier to carry around, but adds to the overall weight, which with the dock is north of three pounds (1.45kg), so as much as a typical 11” ultrabook, which, however, come with much better specs and storage.

The keyboard buttons are of the island type, pretty easy to type on, yet with a somewhat shallow travel, which is a common drawback on such dock attachments. The touchpad, for that matter, is sensitive, and with a decent click feedback.


The 11.6” 1366x768 screen sports 135ppi pixel density, which is a far cry from what the Nexus 10 or iPad 4 offer, but still decent for everyday tasks.

The 440 nits of brightness, the color representation, the contrast and especially the viewing angles are much better than what your typical laptop TN panel offers, but that can be said for almost any tablet.

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